Fox News’ antics after the 2020 election are finally coming back to bite them. The $1.6 billion lawsuit against the news network by Dominion Voting Systems has been ramping up, prompting lots of damning revelations to go public. For one thing, its own hosts didn’t believe some of the voter fraud malarkey they disseminated. Rupert Murdoch thought it was bunk, too. Problem is, as a recent report shows, they were terrified of losing their audience if they reported the news correctly.
The New York Times got their mitts on a recording of a Zoom call involving, among others, anchors Bret Baier and Martha MacCallum, held nearly a fortnight after Election Day and a week and change after most outlets called it for Joe Biden. During the chat, they didn’t congratulate themselves for accurately calling Arizona for Biden earlier than most places. Instead telling the truth was the problem.
“Listen, it’s one of the sad realities: If we hadn’t called Arizona, those three or four days following Election Day, our ratings would have been bigger,” said Fox News CEO Suzanne Scott. “The mystery would have been still hanging out there.”
Instead, MacCallum argued, they shouldn’t report solely on the facts. Instead they should consider how viewer reactions would be to them practicing sound journalistic practice.
“In a Trump environment,” MacCallum said. “The game is just very, very different.”
Baier agreed. “We are still getting bombarded,” he said, saying it “became really hurtful.” He suggested, like MacCallum, that they consider things other than facts. “I know the statistics and the numbers, but there has to be, like, this other layer,” with which they could “think beyond, about the implications.”
MacCallum had his back. “There’s just obviously been a tremendous amount of backlash, which is, I think, more than any of us anticipated. And so there’s that layer between statistics and news judgment about timing that I think is a factor,” she said, worried about the “loud faction of our viewership” who did not appreciate learning Biden had likely won Arizona, which he did.
That brings things back to a germane quote, first made public in Peter Baker’s 2022 book The Divider: Trump in the White House, 2017-2021. Two days after the election, with Biden’s lead narrowing, Baier emailed Fox News president Jay Wallace and others to suggest they recall their calling of Arizona.
“It’s hurting us,” he wrote. “The sooner we pull it even if it gives us major egg. And put it back in his column. The better we are. In my opinion.”
And so Fox News moved into the voter fraud speculation business, which may have wound up destroying them in the end anyway.